There are a lot of times that I will be watching a movie with my children and a scary scene causes them to pull in tight to me (I have a couple older children that don’t do this anymore…but the younger two do). These moments are really one of my favorite times. Not because my children are afraid but because they come running to me to offer protection and to offer them words of hope. Often times my words of encouragement are, “We know how it ends…everything will be okay. We know that the main character will survive.” I think that telling them this helps them either endure the scene or gives them hope to keep watching. There are times though that the fear grips my children so tightly that they can’t take their eyes off what has made them afraid…and their frozen in fear. I have to get up…and hold them…hug them…calm them. In the end they are alway calm but the second scenario has filled their life with unnecessary fear.
Life is very similar. We are bombarded with scary situations it seems like on a regular basis…and as followers of Christ we often run into our loving Father’s arms and he pulls us tight into Him. He loves this…not that we’re afraid but He loves that we run to Him when there is something that is scaring us. He loves that we run to Him instead of running away from Him or being held captive by our fears…unable to move. And I believe He says the same thing that I say to my children, “We know how it ends…everything will be okay. We know that Jesus survived…and because He survived there is nothing that will overcome us….it will be okay.” Even as I type these words I can hear his calming voice speaking this to me…”It will be okay” and I feel better already. And I don’t think these are words that we should take lightly. These are words that should change how we live…and how we react to all situations in life. These are words that should encourage us to brave the darkness of the World bringing it the light they so desperately desire. These words should give us hope that even though things look bleak…there are still better days ahead.
We know how all of this ends. While it appears that there is nothing good that can come from all that is happening…we know how it ends. There is hope for a broken world and for broken individuals. There is hope because we know how it ends. And because of that we should be running not walking…to share the story’s ending with everyone we meet because they need hope to face tomorrow too.
Most mornings I get to take my children to school. Once everyone is in the car and we are on the way it is one of my favorite times of the day. We play a “game” called “The Thanksgiving Train”. We simply go around in the car and share what we are thankful for. There are some mornings where the train is a little slow getting out of the station but by the time we get to school everyone is thankful for something (even if it is getting out of the car filled with thankful people…it is something).
Thanksgiving is contagious and we should really be spreading it more often.
It got me thinking…”Have I shared the things that I am thankful about Hope? Have I shared what I am excited about?” I know that I do share with many people the things that I am thankful about…but what about to everyone? So here goes.
- I am thankful for our worship time at Hope. I was sharing with new members yesterday about the past, present and future Hope and the group that was there could not wrap their minds around what worship was like…before. They only know “now”. And it made me realize that I need to express my thanksgiving for Dana, our worship leader, and the worship team that she leads more often.
- I am thankful for the transformation of our children and youth programs. My wife comes home on Sundays filled with so much energy because of the amount of children that are now a part of what God is doing at Hope. And the transformation is not limited to the programs–it includes the lives of the children that are being transformed. Yesterday in the New Members Class there were 3 youth that were in the class. The first person to share their testimony was a 12-year-old youth-her life has been transformed. There was a parent of an elementary school child who wanted to sleep in yesterday…but her daughter woke her up and said, “I will make the coffee…get up so we can go to church.” Lives…generations are being transformed and I am excited!
- I am excited as we look back at our past we are gaining momentum towards the future. Many times we get entangled with our past and we are unable to move forward…but at Hope our future of reaching children and families in our community is propelling us ahead! I cannot wait to see the future that God has as we stay true to what Hope was intended to be!
- I am excited and thankful that as we stay true to who we are supposed to be, reaching children and families in our community, that we are reaching the grandparents, too. As we have worked to engage the younger families we have people who are older that are stepping up and engaging the youth, too. I love it! (If you cannot tell I really love my church!) We are not a one generation church…God is reaching more generations than I am even aware of.
- I am excited that as we focus on our history of reaching the families of Grand Haven and Robinson Township that God is expanding His reach through Hope too. Instead of our influence getting smaller God is causing His influence to grow greater!
- I am excited about leaders who take their job seriously. There are leaders that know that they are supposed to pray and seek the face of God on behalf of the people here at Hope…and they do it! It is not about being a leader in title only. They are leaders on every account and it is fun to run with them!
These are just a few of the things that I am excited about…I could go on forever (really…I think I could if I had the time to). I love what I get to do here at Hope and I am looking forward to what God is going to do next! I know that our history is a rich history of trusting God to do amazing things and I know that our future will involve the same things! I am excited!
To be honest, I did not know what to write about today. As I was sitting…thinking…what should I write I began to think about the things that need to happen tomorrow…and then the next day…and I had to ask…”Is it okay to be busy?”
I think when we typically ask questions we are already aware of the answer. We probably do not want to hear the answer but we know it. As I have sat and thought about the question I think it really begs another question before it can be answered. “Why am I busy?” This question creates a handful of potential answers. Am I busy because I have not worked in a very wise way? Have I put off until tomorrow what I could be doing today? The answer to these questions are easier questions to answer and even easier questions to fix. Instead of being behind with your work…maybe you should stop reading this blog. No really-if it is keeping you from doing what you are supposed to be doing STOP READING NOW! Some of you are going to be late getting home or you are not going to focus on your family because you are reading this…STOP IT!
A tougher question that you must ask if you are feeling like you are too busy is this. Are you busy because you think you are the only one that can do what you are doing? Some of us (especially in the “church world”) are so busy because we are trying to help people understand that Jesus is the answer to all their problems…but we want to make sure they know we can help too. It is silly. We look at programs and ministries and think that they will “DIE” if we are somehow not involved in them. The people, the youth, the children do not need you! As hard as that sounds it is necessary to hear. I learned that as I spent two weeks on vacation. I missed being at work and I hope that I was missed…but no one “needed” me. They need Jesus, plain and simple and the sooner we get that the less busy (and possessive) we are.
Are you too busy? Some of you are so busy worrying about other people too. I think this is another thing that is easy to see is wrong but difficult to fix. We look around at all of the problems in the world and we think that we need to cary the load of these problems personally. We see injustices taking place (serious crimes like someone not dressing appropriately or singing accurately or saying something correctly) and we take it upon ourselves to personally fix the problem. And because we are fixing something that really is not our problem to fix in the first place we become too busy and do not do the things that we should be doing ourselves.
Again as I think through the excuses (and many of them I can use) as to why we are too busy none are really justified. One that I think is used often and is not justifiable either is that we stay busy so that we do not have to address any of the real problems that we have. If we stay busy we do not have to “feel”. If we stay busy we do not have to “think”. If we stay busy we do not have to allow ourselves to be “fixed”. It is quiet simply easier to be busy. But the question that really needs to be asked as we inch closer to New Years is what are we going to do about it? Are we willing to really look at more then the reality that we are busy but maybe better yet…why?
I enjoy playing games with my wife. One game that we do not play well together is Monopoly-We actually have enjoyed playing it again on my iPad. There was a time when we did not play Monopoly though. I became some ruthless, uncaring person when we did. I could not wait to have her spend all of her money paying off rent on my hotels. But the thing I loved was the big “Go” sign on the board. You knew where you started. Everything on the board was based off of the “starting” point on the board. You were rewarded when you returned to the “start” almost every time.
We all have a “starting” point. We call the “start” the foundation of truth. Even people who claim there is no truth in the world around us still begin there as a starting point. For some people the “start” is whatever life experience they have been through. Their view of everyone is tainted based on these experiences. For others the “starting” point is “what will it cost me?” Everything that they do after that is dictated on the “start” and the “cost”. Others find the “starting” point to be where will this lead me. “If I do this I will get that.” What I have found as I have tried to discover the starting point in my life is that all of the things that I have mentioned so far continue to shift and change. My view of the world will not be the same today as it is tomorrow…therefore the starting line is constantly changing. I cannot predict what I should do tomorrow yet. I need to wait for my “experiences” to catch up to the reality of my life today.
The “start” for my entire life is found in the Bible–the Word of God. Every week at Hope we begin our services by everyone holding a Bible up, either the one that they brought from home or one that is located in the seat in front of them, and then we say together, “This is the Word of God, and I believe what It says is true.” We start here. Everything that we do is based on this foundation. And it never changes. Now I realize that many people can look at one verse and interpret it differently but we know we have somewhere to return to as our “starting” point and it never changes.
I have discovered that many people do not like or agree with the starting point that I have…I am okay with that. At least they are aware of where I base all of my life off of. I will come into every situation that I face knowing that I have to begin somewhere…and for me (and I think it should be for everyone) it is the Word of God…because I believe it to be true.
Today, November 26, 2012 is my first day back in to office after having two weeks off for vacation. While it sounds glorious to have two weeks off…I spent most of it sick. In fact I started by being sick a couple of days before my vacation began. (I have heard of many other people who have been sick during the past few weeks and I can lament with you.) But here are some things that I learned about myself and my job while I was on vacation and sick.
- I was tired before I got sick and it only made it worse. I realized as I was sleeping about 14 hours a day that I had been going hard for a long time…and this is not the way that it is supposed to be. I have been trying to learn about “rest” and I realized how pathetic I was at resting.
- I also realized that I was carrying a lot of stress that I did not need to carry. I was gone for two weeks. I did not answer an e-mail. I did not return phone calls. I did answer a few texts but they were “friend” related and not work related…and when I returned to my office there were things that I needed to do…but everything was still standing. People were cared for in my absence. Prayers had been prayed in my absence. Leaders had filled in the gap and led in my absence. Now I believe strongly that I have been created by God to lead at this specific church for this specific time…but I also realized that there are other capable leaders that do a great job and have been called to lead here at this church too.
- And another thing that I learned is that I get to serve with great leaders too. These are not the “average, just trying to get by” leaders. These are leaders that are willing to push the edges to get where God has called them to go. These are leaders that are not afraid of problems but are instead running into the issues full of courage knowing that they have the strength of God before them and behind them!
- I also learned while I was sick that I have a lot more to learn. One day I listened to 10 talks from other leaders…and they had some great things to say. I never want to stop thinking that I cannot keep learning. I have so much to learn.
- I also learned what a great family that I have. My wife allowed me to sleep while I was sick. We both had great plans of the things we hoped to accomplish while I was on vacation around the house…very little of it happened. The basement got “partially” cleaned. The time playing games happened one night instead of every night. All of the shows that we hoped to get caught up on only got further behind. We both sacrificed while I was on vacation but I think my wife sacrificed more. I knew prior to my vacation that I have the best wife but while I was home I learned it again. I also was able to spend more time with my children and I loved it! We were able to laugh and talk about deep things. We were able to sing songs of praise together. We were able to dream of the future together. It was a great time. My extended family was great while I was sick too. Helping out in so many ways.
- I also learned a lot about my Heavenly Father too while I was on vacation. I learned a lot about His desires for me. I learned that as much as I hated being sick…that this was not his desire for me either. Sure, there are things that I can learn while being sick…but it is not His “will”. His will for me is goodness…not sickness. His will for me is wholeness…not fragmentations. His will for me is abundance…not skimping. His will is so much better then I have ever grasped. While I learned a lot I also realized that I still have so much more to learn about Him and His love for me.
- I also learned a lot about the Christmas story. I have kept it in the elementary thinking in my thoughts for so long…and there is so much more to the story than I have realized. There will be more to come in the following weeks about what I have learned about Christmas…and I hope you will continue to read about them in the future and learn with me…because it is a story filled with so much more hope than I have ever realized. It is not something that fits neatly in a story. It is so much bigger then that. It is a powerful…not just life transforming but society transforming message.
These are just a few of the things that I have learned on vacation…more to come.
It is said in most families that things go smoother when religion and politics stay separate. Many have heard it said, “separation of church and state” is the way it should be. But I think this is a major part of our problem…not the solution.
Now please wait before you get hostile (I know hostility and discussions about politics usually happen…but just wait). As a culture we have attempted to compartmentalize our lives. We say things like, “That is just how I am at work…but that is not the real me.” We love to watch shows like Survivor which allow people who are kind and caring individuals when they are not on the show to become heartless killers. And we think this type of living and thinking is okay. So when it comes to politics we read and study one thing on Sunday like helping the poor and the needy…but then when it comes to voting…somehow I am supposed to separate my fundamental beliefs with how I vote? I would argue that you cannot separate something as fundamental as your “beliefs” in regards to God. This should impact everything that you do and say. This is where the problem has occurred. You cannot separate Christ from politics. The world needs followers of Christ who are unafraid to bring with them their beliefs in Christ. The world needs politicians that care about the things that Christ cares about.
But if we are honest we have become so accustomed to separating our faith and politics. We research politicians based on how they better us (individual us) and not looking at does this honor God. People tell me (I had people tell me yesterday after I preached on politics and the Bible) that they know that the Bible says this about life…and they do not care. They are going to vote differently because they want to. Do we see the separation and the problems that this has created.
When I country does not create the duality that we have created we at least know what to expect and how to fix the problems. Our biggest problem is how we have tried to keep our religion separate not just from politics but literally everything. Our hope is not hinging upon the election tomorrow. Our hope is hinging upon a nation returning to unity and I firmly believe unity under Jesus Christ. I know tomorrow as I go to vote I will vote united and unashamedly as Christ would vote. I hope others do not try and keep them separate but instead fight to state united.
We are in the midst of a series titled, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It…and I Feel Fine?” (If you want to listen to any of the messages you can go to http://www.hopereformedgh.com or to iTunes) Yesterday we looked at 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 and how those in this church viewed the “end times”. One of the quotes that was used came from a Roman political campaign, “Peace and Safety”. It actually sounds like something that we would use today. The problem was Paul was saying that destruction would be coming to those that waved this banner. Government was trying to provide something that they were not capable of giving. People were looking the government for “peace and safety” and it was not possible.
When Jesus arrived in Israel 30 years prior to the writings in Thessalonians the people were looking for a “political” answer too. They wanted a Messiah that would come and throw the currently ruling government out and install a government that they wanted. People were disappointed when Jesus refused to pick up a sword and instead served. They were frustrated when he did not solve their economic woes of unfair taxation. Instead he told those that had to give to those that were in need. He praised those that were struggling financially because they still trusted in His father more then the promises given by the government. In fact, the ultimate fate of Jesus was at the hands of the government. They “solved” their problem by killing a person. He solved our problem by taking our place.
We are all looking at this coming election thinking that one of the candidates will be the “answer”. (I think there are issues that each person who follows Christ should be educated on. If you chose to exercise your right and not vote, then please allow me to exercise my right of freedom of speech and ask you kindly to stop complaining about all of the problems-you are part of the problem!) The “answer” is the Bride of Christ stepping up and being the solution that God had proclaimed us to be 2000 years ago. We are supposed to be the ones feeding those that are hungry (shameless plug–proud of Hope people-they will be feeding people tonight and adding dignity for all people as they interact with them!) We are supposed to be the ones seeing someone alongside of the road needing help…and helping them. We are supposed to be the ones providing health care to those that others would oppress (Would it not be incredible if some of the “church” buildings that are merely “heat storage” unites throughout most of the week were turned into health clinics). I hear all of the time that it is not possible…but I tend to believe what Jesus said over what I think or what others think. In Matthew 19:26 Jesus stated, “With man this is impossible…but with God all things are possible!”
I believe that there is hope for a better future if we begin to put our hope in the right things. I believe that my children will have a brighter future-not because they will have a higher earning but because the Bride of Christ will be in unison with the Bride! Doing what has been asked of us. Living as we have been empowered to live!
I do believe that “religion and politics” can work together. I will post on that next week.